on losing your way

It has been a funny old year so far.  2016 arrived with the usual fireworks and fun, then January sloped through the door, nothing much happening.  No snow, lots of rain, a birthday came and went and now it is the middle of February.  Six weeks into the New Year and it is feeling just like the old year. Perhaps this is the way.  Maybe things don’t, after all, change with the turn of the calendar.

As I sit in my kitchen it is another grey soggy day.  Rain has fallen often this year, and, although we are lucky not to be affected by flooding, the constant dampness does nothing for the spirit.

Yesterday there was a brief break in the clouds, weak sunshine and blue sky above gave the hope of Spring, perhaps it is just around the corner after all.  The bulbs in pots certainly think so, they are already standing tall above the earth and have little regard for the lack of sunlight.  Perhaps it is always so.

I think it is fortunate that February is the shortest month of all, as it is my least favourite. Weeks between now and warm sunny days, the tiny change in the length of the days does not console me, we are still stuck in Winter.  Twenty nine days is long enough.  Once March bursts in,  blowing away the wintry blues, the days will begin to stretch and the sun remembers to shine through the cloudy skies.  But for now we are in the midst of February.

I am wondering if it is just this end of winter blues that is making me feel lost.  Somehow I am less sure than I have ever been about who I am and what I should be doing.  Autumn and Winter have whizzed past in a whirl of collecting and sending aid to people in need. My email and social media is full of tragedy and heartache.  Even the positivity and kindness of strangers, who over this past six months have become friends, is not enough to make my heart stop aching.

I am thinking of the other times, when a younger, braver me juggled house and home, work and play.  When children are small, when you are working to make a life it is so easy to forget to remember the life you have.  I am struck by the thought of all the beds I used to make, all the meals I used to cook, the mucky faces I wiped and the cuddles we had,all the battles I used to fight, the shirts I have ironed and the love I have been surrounded by. It seems impossible to me that my children are off into the world, making their own lives and although they keep in touch, in some ways, my job here is done.

So, no longer the mother hen, no longer the working parent, not even working anywhere, it is perhaps unsurprising that I do at times feel a little lost.  I used to wonder what was the purpose of me, now that the mothering is largely over, now I am no longer employed.  I often thought that days spent writing and thinking did not in any way make up for a real purposeful life. In February, in the rain, this feels even more real.

When lost it is always advisable to use a map, to look ahead and to chose the road you are going to take.  This is what I am in the process of doing.  My map is one of opportunity, the road ahead is full of promise. I need to focus on the future.  I may not have my own babies any more but I do have my Granddaughter who brings laughter and love into the room with her every time she arrives at Nana’s house.  l need to remember every day spent with this little one. Time with her is pure joy, no juggling work and packing school bags, just love and cuddles and reading stories.

You see it turns out I am not lost after all.  I am just on a different road, and this time I am choosing my path carefully. It has taken a while to realise that although this is a new route the journey is one I have done before. I am making memories and friends along the way.  I am open to helping others but also I am learning to be selfish.  Learning to put me first and to seize the opportunities in front of me. As with every other road taken, the destination will probably not be what was first expected, but one thing I am good at is adapting to the real world and I have every confidence in myself.

So February, you will soon be gone, leaving just a memory of rainy days and cold weather, and as you go I will be feeling the warmth of the sun in preparation for the Spring.  I am choosing happy, choosing life and although sometimes still lost, I am loving this journey, for what it is.  Life and it really is for living.



on the year of change

When I look back at the year just ending there will be so many things to reflect on.  Watching my gorgeous Granddaughter change from baby to toddler, taking her first steps and finding her voice.  Delighting in every stage, we simply could not love her more.  Taking equal pride in her Mum and Dad, who have come through tough times, now more positive than ever, they are an amazing team.

A summer spent in a Welsh garden, nestling in the hills, our own little bit of paradise.  We were joined this year by friends and family, creating happy memories of fun in the sunshine.  We built a shed, we planted and watched the flowers bloom.  We laughed here, perhaps more than I ever have before.  Getting to know new friends, joining neighbours for Pimms and beer, swapping stories and finding shared interests.

Waving my daughter off on her adventures, hoping that the world will love her as much as I do was tricky, but then finding to my delight that she makes friends easily and is living in the moment every day.  I couldn’t ask for more for her than what she wishes for herself.  Her spirit, her sense of fun and her friendliness equips her well wherever she chooses to be.

In the middle of family life I was beginning to feel a bit rootless, wondering what I should be doing with myself and how I could find my own place in the world again.  Social media brought new friends, people from across the world and I have loved getting to know these people, talking often, sometimes too often.

Then came the end of the summer and with it news of the refugee’s walking across Europe in search of a new normality,  their homes destroyed and lives threatened they set off to in hope towards a new life. Shocking images leapt into the living room and were not forgotten. They are not forgotten yet.  It took me weeks to work out if there was anything I could do to help them on their journey, but once I worked it out a whole world I had never imagined lay before me.

Once I saw into this world there was no going back.  In the midst of helplessness and despair there was one amazing focus.  There are lots of people, just like me, coming together to help.  All my life I have wanted to change the world, this year was the year I worked out how to do it!  I know whatever I do, here in England may not change very much for very many, but there are hundreds of people just like me, everywhere, and together we are changing things.

I understand that we cannot stop bombing and war, that some people will continue to hate, and there will sadly be many more babies dying in the seas.  But the wonderful network of people across the world and especially within Europe are making a difference every day.  The small acts of kindness together are comforting those on the journey.  A new pair of shoes, a warm coat, a kind word and food in the belly.  All provided with love and care from strangers, some of whom are now amongst my dearest friends. The strong and brave people who put their lives on hold and give time and love to those arriving on the shores of Europe, guiding boats into safe beaches, treating the sick, feeding the crowds.

So in a year when so many governments across the world turned away from those in need, when the mega force of media magnates raged against people who happened to live and love in a place of war, when my country inexplicitly elected politicians that were never going to care about anyone but themselves,  where we could have given up hope, we didn’t.  Instead we got off our sofas and did something, and this alone meant that we were joined with many more people who also did the same.

As we leave this year behind and move into 2016 I cannot help but think that 2015 will be remembered forever as the year the world began to change.  The year that ordinary people worked together in spite of governments, in spite of people telling them it was hopeless.  A wave of hope and friendship was forged, where it no longer was enough to give a bit of cash to an appeal, when people power was harnessed and help was offered.

As I watched my Granddaughter this afternoon, working out her world, laughing and playing, safe, loved, warm and well, a part of my heart was lost to all the other toddlers, the Mums and Dads, the Nana’s and Pop’s who love as passionately as I do, to the people still walking towards safety, those sleeping in tents in the snow and the children playing in the mud in a camp. I hope they know ordinary people are coming to help them, that we care and we will not longer leave it up to someone else.

I start this new year in a positive yet reflective mood.  I have hope that the human race may yet be won with kindness and love, and that we will all choose to offer the hand of friendship to others.  I understand I am the luckiest of people, I have all that I need and most of what I want.  May 2016 be kind to you all.

on the politics of hope

This blog could easily have been written about a movement coming together to enable change at the highest level in a political party and in a way that is exactly what this blog will be about. This blog is about Hope.

I have written here often about embracing change, about seizing the day, about trusting in yourself and the universe to deliver what is necessary.  It matters.

Hope is a word that has been much used in the recent campaign and also in the media.  To live without hope is to live with despair.  For each of the people struggling with illness, with sadness, with bereavement and with poverty, hope is the only thing left.  Hope for a decent life, hope to be treated with dignity and care, hope that the world will understand and support us all, hope is political, hope is universal, hope is all of our responsibilities.

What does this small word really mean? The dictionary is a good place to start.  The Oxford English gives us three definitions

A feeling of expectation and desire for a particular thing to happen: A person or thing that may help or save someone: Grounds for believing that something good may happen:

All accurate, all true, this is what the word hope means. Yet I think it is so much more. Hope is the light in a dark place.  Hope is the flicker in the heart that encourages it to keep beating.  Hope is the opposite of despair. Hope is what makes us keep on keeping on.

Of the three definitions it is the last one that speaks to me.  Hope is ‘grounds for believing that something good may happen’.  In other words, hope is action  Hope is the mechanism for beginning to trust the world around us, and hope is tangible.  This means it is always possible to create hope.  Even in a desperate world hope can be offered.  A helping hand, a smile and acceptance of each other as one and the same.

So, in a week when undoubtedly the press will implode with reasons not to be happy, when we will see ever more people struggling and dying who we know could help, when the politics are personal and the individual is lost, it is vital that we remember hope.

Hope is the person who gave a pair of boots so that a refugee may wear them and walk on with dry feet. Hope is the smile between those who recognise their bond. Hope is powerful and can and does change lives forever.

My hope is that changes over the weekend will give a voice of hope in a place where we have had little evidence of standing up for the hopeless.  I hope that those in need of help will be given the help they need and will come through the darkness.

Writing this I am remembering a poem that has stayed with me for a long time. In this poem  Sheenagh Pugh says exactly how hope can be and this has been a source of comfort to me many times.

Sometimes by Sheenagh Pugh

Sometimes things don’t go, after all,
from bad to worse.  Some years, muscadel
faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don’t fail,
sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.

A people sometimes will step back from war;
elect an honest man, decide they care
enough, that they can’t leave some stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.

Sometimes our best efforts do not go
amiss, sometimes we do as we meant to.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen:  may it happen for you.

If we remember that Hope is action, then each of us can play our part and create hope within our own world.  Today we can do that, and we should.